Label: Pleasantville Records
Catalog: 28RUE PVILLE-COL
- 180gram HQ pressing
- Remastered from the 1st generation OASIS RECORDS master tape
- Lacquer cut by Kevin Gray at Cohearent Audio
- First time on vinyl reissue
- Pressed on Blue Bubble Vinyl
This is the 3rd solo album by Yon Seok-won, whose career as composer/arranger spans 5 decades, released in 1991. The Mermaid is a monumental work representing Yon’s first output as a pioneer of a unique jazz-based Korean new age/fusion sound. The album has recently become much sought-after among listeners and collectors drawn to the ambient elements and Balearic vibes that permeate the album. At long last, after nearly 30 years, this hidden masterpiece from a visionary composer who was way ahead of his time has been reissued!
Yon Seok-won was born in 1949 in Hwanghae Province, in what is now part of North Korea. After his family fled to the South during the Korean War, he grew up in Incheon. In 1969, he met Incheon-born musician Kim Myoung-kil, with whom he formed the soul band ‘Devils’. Playing mainly on the U.S. 8th Army entertainment circuit, the group also dominated music competitions and the club scene. Yon left the band when he was drafted into military service soon after the release of the Devils debut album. As soon as his service was complete, Yon formed and led the Outsiders, a rock band that mixed soul and Latin influences. The outfit’s only album was released in 1975. Yon then went on to join Shin Byoung-ha’s jazz-rock / disco unit, the Four Seasons, while also working on solo material and furthering his career as an arranger. Having built a working relationship with SRB Records at the time, he handled production duties as composer / arranger for various acts such as the folk singer Jung Tae-choon as well as soul-funk singers like Yoon Si-nae and Moon Ji-young. Ever passionate about exploring new music, in 1982 he left behind a promising career as composer / arranger in the domestic gayo scene and went to America to discover a greater world of music. He spent the next 5 years studying jazz and playing local gigs in Hawaii.
Upon his return to Korea in 1986, Yon’s broadened musical scope organically found expression on numerous remarkable gayo productions, signaling the start of a new heyday for him. This is plain to see in his work on the albums by various top acts of the time, including In Soon-ee, Lee Eun-ha, Kim Wan-sun, and Kim Beom-ryong. In particular, he demonstrated an unparalleled knack for arranging New Wave-influenced disco tunes as well as ballads that incorporated elements of chamber music. Additionally, since the early 1990s to the early 2000s, Yon has been prolific as a score composer for numerous films and drama series. In 1990, Yon established a musicianship crew of his own, ‘Creation’, which became a steadfast vehicle for him to give form to his musical visions. His jazz-based fusion / new age albums, which threw a fresh new light on Yon and his work, were released during this era. Building on his close working relationship with Oasis Records at the time, in 1991 Yon released his first solo material in 10 years – ‘Mermaid’, while also working as head producer of Shin Hyo-bum’s idiosyncratic jazz-oriented gayo album ‘Jazz: The Outing (1991). Also prolific as an arranger, his career peaked when he participated in hit songs by Lee Moon-sae and Kim Gwang-seok. Ever since the 2000s, Yon has focused mainly on composing scores for drama series.
Yon’s extraordinary yet woefully under-documented career saw him pursue a unique musical journey after his beginnings in a soul / rock band in the 70s, after which he infused jazz elements into gayo and realized his greater musical vision. His touch can be found everywhere from 70’s gems to the various gayo hits and score albums of the late 91’s. As such, Yon Seok-won is a mysterious musician whose works are familiar to any gayo lover / collector even while little is known about the man himself. It’s high time for a proper appreciation of Yon and his work.